Saudis in Guantanamo return home, only 23 left

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RIYADH, Nov 10 (Reuters) Fourteen Saudis returned to Saudi Arabia today from detention in the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay where suspected al Qaeda militants are held, Saudi media said.

Washington has returned dozens of Saudis over the past year in an effort to reduce the numbers detained at controversial camp ahead of finally closing it.

Saudi public anger over the treatment of Saudi detainees in Guantanamo Bay has been high in the kingdom, a key US ally which applies strict Islamic law. Two Saudis were among three prisoners who hanged themselves at the naval base in June.

Fifteen of the 19 hijackers responsible for the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States were Saudis.

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz told official news agency SPA that efforts were under way to bring back the remaining Saudis.

An Interior Ministry official told Reuters 23 Saudis remained in detention at the facility.

Washington has designated Guantanamo prisoners -- mainly seized in Afghanistan during a US invasion in 2001 -- as ''enemy combatants''.

They have been denied the prisoner of war status that would guarantee them certain rights under international law.

Those repatriated to Saudi Arabia have received financial help from the government to rebuild their lives and many have been allowed to go free.

REUTERS SZ RN1808

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